Dystopian fiction has been around for some time. Dystopia is the idea that society is marked by all things the opposite of a Utopia, such as misery, fear, and oppression. Book like George Orwell’s 1984 (society ruled by totalitarian state) or Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (controlled human reproduction), and even the 1990 Arnold Schwartzenegger movie Total Recall, describe alternative worlds where anti-utopian states exist. In recent years books like Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games and Veronica Roth’s Divergent have explored dystopian genre with a great range of ideas; the former about a world where people enter a killing game to survive, while the latter is about a society split into 5 factions based on predetermined human values.
While the ideas were interesting and the plot lines gripping, I couldn’t help but find myself musing at this recent slew of dystopian young adult fiction popping up like mushrooms over the past few years. Are these books meant to challenge a young person’s view of the current state of society with a perverse creation of one? Are young adults fighting the chains of boredom in this relatively free and secure world we live in? While the teens in the books are often equipped with extraordinary amount of willpower and strength, does this appeal to young readers these days as they imagine themselves rebelling and fighting for something?
What I find truly amusing that amidst all that teenage angst, the characters still find a time to fall in love. So far I’ve ploughed through 3 sets of these books and they all have a common theme:
1. The world is fucked up and the adults are too stupid to do anything. Only a 16 year old can save the day.
2. To be able to get out of each difficult situation, the teen must be well-equipped with tools that we don’t even give our teens today in the real world (unless they are part of the children army in war torn countries in Africa). So this means knowing how to fight and how to use weapons (crossbow, guns, knives).
3. While jumping, shooting, punching, running to save the day, the main character always has time to fall in love with a boy.
4. The main character is invariably plain or average looking but she manages to find someone who finds her the most beautiful petal in the flower. And doesn’t hesitate to tell her so. repeatedly.
5. Not only does the character has time to find love, she has time to get herself into a love triangle. My husband read Hunger Games and he asked out loud what is it with girls and their love triangles. It happened in Twilight. It happened in Hunger Games. I told him while some men fantasize about being in a threesome, some girls dream about being fought over by two boys. It’s even better if she chooses one boy over the other, but the loser still clings on because his love is so strong for her. Some girls thrive on being on the receiving end of unrequited love.
So there you have it, the reasons why these books are fast becoming so popular. Hunger Games has been made into a movie, and so is Divergent. I just finished book 2 of Lauren Oliver’s Delirium, where love a disease and eradicated from the world. I must admit that while the book is stupidly written, I am hooked. To everyone’s dismay, book 3 will only be out March 2013 while book 2 ended on a cliffhanger. While I wince at the constant puppy love that the main character subjects herself to, I applaud that these books tend to describe their heroines as fighters, both physically and mentally. Truly beats waiting for prince charming to swing by on a horse and rescue them from drudgery.